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Southeastern Washington County, in the distant state of Oregon. Hills! Steep hills! Ridiculously steep
hills! Barely two lane roads. Less than two lane roads.
Pavement. Dirt and gravel over pavement. Dirt and gravel. A
place where 4.9 miles qualifies as a worthy day's ride.
All this starting a distant 11 miles from my
house. (I live 10 miles from downtown Portland.)
Yesterday I planned a 60 mile loop I've done many
times, this time on my new fixie. Up and over the gap in the Chehalem
ridge between the county I live in, Washington and Yamhill to the south.
Then north following those hills in the valley, around and home. I have
gone that loop many times. Left home on the 43 x 17, the 23 on the other
side of the hub and a 12 in my tool bag. Carried a wrench/lockring wrench
and a chain whip.
I got the start of the gentle 1000' climb and
discovered my wheel would not turn inside the fender at all in the 43 x
23. Change of plans time. Well, I'll try "bushwacking" on
that road a 1/4 mile away I have never ridden. There's got to be a way to
get over to Laurel road which runs roughly parallel to the road I am on and is
down in the valley flat. This new road starts up. Gets
steeper. But I can see what may be the top. I can to that in my 43
x 17. And I do. And bomb down a really steep descent; one I really
don't want to ride up! Inertia gets me a little ways into a not quite so
steep climb, then it is out of the saddle, then pulling hard and finding the
road getting steeper each turn, Knowing I am not in great shape,
really don't want any muscle pulls and am wearing a brand new jersey I hope to
keep for years, I start judging "can I get up the next pitch?" and
"will I be able to release my toestrap before I fall if I
can't?" I come to a tight steep bend and decide it's time to walk
and successfully uncleat. When the road finally levels out a bit, I
continue on. Get to the tree farm whose signs I have been following for a
couple of miles. A customer at the tree farm pulls out his cell/GPS and
shows me the map. Continue up to the T intersection, take a right on McCormick HIll Road. Takes me directly to Laurel. Cool. More climbing. Like another
mile. There were these deceptive "flats" where I could sit,
hands on the tops, pulling hard. After a while I noticed the telephone
poles on the "flats" were all leaning forward. (Don't they use
Get to the T. McCormick Hill Road and another sign. Not at all clear which sign belongs
to which side of the T. Take my right. Immediately I am confronted
with a fork in the road. Better pavement/bigger road goes up to the
left. Dirt goes to the right. I go left. A full mile plus
later I finally see a sign confirming I am on McCormick Hill Road. But it keeps climbing. And climbing.
Pavement under the dirt disappears. Still climbing. But I am
beginning to figure out where I am. This is the top of the Chehelem
ridge. Sure enough, road dumps into Mountain Top Road. I know exactly where I am, but I am a long ways (and
1200' above) where I intended to hit Laurel Road!
I turn left on Mountain Top Road, ride the three miles to the long climb I was planning to
ride up on the 23 tooth cog, screw on the 12 tooth, and roll down it in style.
When the roads are a little cleaner (obviously a lot
of gravel was dumped on them for the recent cold and ice) I'll be back on my
good bike with its triple. And I am going to start scouring my Thomas
Guide for those little solid lines in faint grey. (An inch or two of
dashed to make connections is OK.) Oh, that T intersection? Looked
it up in the Thomas Guide. Looks just like what that dude and the tree
farm showed me. And the fork immediately after? Doesn't exist.
(The right at that fork was what I wanted.) If you believe the Guide, I
had to have taken a left at the T to end up where I did.
This is another reason why good bikes that are not
actually going to be raced seriously should have 1) a triple crank and 2)
clearance for decent size tires. And fenders if any moisture. (And,
no, my fixie was really not the right bike! But that climbing was
fun! I am going to get the fender issues sorted out.) Those climbs
I was looking at yesterday were all climbable on a double but would only be fun
on a triple. (The two paragraphs above that describe the two roads.
4.9 miles. 1200' net gain with that steep descent early.
Fun, fun, fun!